Hartlepool United midfielder set for Chester reunion in 'special' FA Cup tie

Hartlepool United’s FA Cup tie with Chester will hold an added significance to midfielder Tom Crawford who is set to come up against his hometown team – the team who gave him his professional debut.
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Crawford, sometimes dubbed as ‘The Chester Iniesta’ by supporters, could line up against his former side with a place in the first round of the FA Cup up for grabs.

Crawford is one of few remaining in the Hartlepool squad who reached the fourth round in 2022 where they faced Crystal Palace.

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And while the midfielder admits that day at Selhurst Park remains ‘one of the best days I’ve had in football,’ this afternoon’s qualifying tie against Chester will hold plenty of significance to the 24-year-old.

Tom Crawford is set to face his former club when Hartlepool United host Chester in the FA Cup.Tom Crawford is set to face his former club when Hartlepool United host Chester in the FA Cup.
Tom Crawford is set to face his former club when Hartlepool United host Chester in the FA Cup.

Crawford was handed his senior debut by the team he would sometimes go and watch as a child growing up.

The midfielder retains a strong affiliation with the club – particularly manager Calum McIntyre, who is a close friend of Crawford’s off the field.

But for all the sentiment, Crawford says he has a job to do with the aim of continuing Hartlepool’s momentum following their return to winning ways against Eastleigh seven days ago – a fixture in which Crawford scored his third goal of the season.

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"It’s a special one for me,” Crawford explained to BBC Radio Tees.

"I come from Chester and I played my first professional game for Chester. My mate is the manager, I know all the lads. It’s a club that holds a special place in my heart for many reasons.

"I went to a few games [when I was growing up]. I’m a Liverpool fan originally but I went to a few games and it’s very special to play for your hometown team and I’ve got very fond memories of playing there.

“I’ve got friends and family who support Chester and the manager is a close friend of mine – he’s a big part in where my career has got to so I’ve got a lot to thank him for.

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"But I’m a Hartlepool player and I want to win. This club also means a lot to me and I want to be in the next round.”

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Hartlepool have been able to enjoy relative success in the famous old competition in recent years having made it to round three last season, losing to Championship side Stoke City, and going one further in 2022 having defeated higher level opposition in all three rounds against Wycombe Wanderers and Lincoln City of League One and Blackpool, then of the Championship, before the trip to Crystal Palace.

And Crawford believes the FA Cup retains its prestige, admitting it remains a competition every player aspires to compete in.

"The FA Cup is special – everyone wants to play in the FA Cup. As a kid you grow up watching it and you see the special moments and memories and you just want to create them for your own club,” he said.

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"I think if you’re lower down the pecking order, in terms of where your club is at, it’s even more special when you get a bigger draw like we had with Blackpool where you can create them days and, as a club, financially, it’s obviously very good for the lower league teams.

"The Crystal Palace one is up there with one of the best days I’ve had in football. I know we didn’t win the game but the fans, the whole atmosphere around the game, the build up, it’s what dreams are made of.

"Seeing all of the Pools fans at the end singing, I had my family there, it doesn’t get much better than that.”